No one personified the age of industry more than the miners. The Shadow of the Mine tells the story of King Coal in its heyday—and what happened to mining communities after the last pits closed.
Coal was central to the British economy, powering its factories and railways. It carried political weight, too. In the eighties the miners risked everything in a year-long strike against Thatcher’s shutdowns. Defeat foretold the death of their industry. Tens of thousands were cast onto the labour market with a minimum amount of advice and support.
Today, British politics all of a sudden revolves around the coalfield constituencies which lent their votes to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in 2019. Even in the Welsh Valleys, where the “red wall” still stands, support for the Labour Party has halved in a generation.
Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson draw on decades of research to chronicle these momentous changes through the words of the people who lived through them.
“The Shadow of the Mine is the story of those who toiled to provide the energy for Britain’s industrial economy. The miners acquired heroic status during World War Two and were nationalised by Labour only to find that the world still went on very much the same. After defeat by Thatcher, the pits were levelled and the Miners’ Welfare Halls, their social and intellectual centres, vanished. With carefully controlled passion, this book indicts such ruthless disregard for the values of care and association.”
“A hymn to working-class community and to men and women’s souls.”
“A powerful study of tumultuous political events steeped in knowledge of the coalfields. Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson emphasise the capacities of the men and women deprived of their livelihoods and all too often their health and well-being. The result is a sensitive understanding of the anger, despair and overwhelming sense of loss felt by heartland Labour voters. Essential reading for all those who care about the future—and hence the past—of working-class politics.”
“Drawing on decades of research … [The Shadow of the Mine] is a moving account of 150 years of coalfield history … By tracing the ‘deep story’ of the marginalisation of Britain’s coalfields, it aims to understand the continuing exclusion of working-class people in deindustrialised areas from political and social life.”
“It’s the precise, empathetic detailing of life after coal that makes this book so telling – the low-paid jobs, the boring shifts, the ritual humiliations doled out to ex-miners who were once considered to be doing work of physical heroism and national importance. In that shift lies a deep truth about the death of a kind of labourism and it is skilfully told here. I will remember this book long after I have forgotten the rote analyses of the collapse of the ‘red wall.’”